JIm Spier’s Junior Nationals Blog

by Joy Kamani

by Jim Spier

We (Joy Kamani) and I arrived here Tuesday. I left North Carolina with 95 degree temperatures and high humidity and arrived in Des Moines with …. 95 degree temperatures and high humidity!

There was a major thunderstorm on Tuesday night which made things much better. The humidity was cut significantly and the temperature got up into the low eighties. It was quite pleasant in the shade.

The only thing going on Tuesday were the multi-events. Sizeable numbers and talented fields made it quite interesting.

The heptathlon has four high schoolers leading after day 1. (There are 34 in the field). Ashley Smith (Millikan, Long Beach, CA) has 3298 points, followed by Whitney Fountain (Columbus, Bronx, NY) with 3241, local favorite Alex Gochenour (Logan-Magnolia, Logan, IA) with 3228 and Lindsay Vollmer (Penney, Hamilton, MO) with 3140. Smith and Fountain recently graduated; the other two have one more year of high school.

Ashley Smith was the 2010 Arcadia Invitational winner and high school leader at 5225. In that event, she cleared 5'11" in the high jump but could only manage 5-6.5 here. Fountain, known primarily as a sprinter, surprisingly cleared 5-8.75 in the high jump, which is pretty amazing for someone with a 5'5" compact frame.

Gochenour has won 9 individual state titles in three years at her relatively small high school. She scored 5100+ points two weeks ago in a JO competition. Vollmer is the Great Southwest heptathlon champ (5133 points). She is also a multi-talented athlete from a small school. (She attends J.C. Penney High School in Hamilton, Missouri. J.C. Penney was born and raised in that Missouri small town. My college roommate as a freshman, John Alden, was from Hamilton, MO — I attended the U of Missouri. I spent Thanksgiving of 1960 with his family. Trust me: it's a small town).

My form chart has the finals as follows: 1) Gochenour 5296; 2) Smith 5247; 3) Fountain 5236; 4) Vollmer 5119. But … who knows? Anything can happen. In any event, it should come down to the 800 to see which two athletes represent the U.S. in Moncton.

The decathlon is similarly close after Day 1. Neaman Wise (South Florida) leads with 3864 points, only 10 points ahead of Gunnar Nixon (Santa Fe, Edmond, OK). Third is Kevin Lazas of Brentwood, TN (3801) and Austin Bahner (Wichita State) fourth (3780).

Gunnar Nixon

Wise is the 2009 Nike Indoor Nationals pentathlon champ. Nixon, who had been nursing a sore knee, is the 2010 NIN champion and record holder (4141 points). Lazas was not far behind in that event (3942 points), ranking 4th all-time at that meet. Kevin comes from the great training program provided by former Olympian Gary Kinder in Brentwood, TN. Nixon and Lazas took 1-2 in the Arcadia Invitational decathlon, 7573 to 7510, the #1 and #2 US marks.

The person not on the radar is Kevin Bahner, a red-shirt freshman at Wichita State. His 6692 performance in May with the college implements puts him at the U.S. Junior lead with those implements, and he should be right in the mix.

I don't have enough information to make any predictions. Suffice it to say that the final event, the 1500 meters, will ultimately determine the duo for the US team.

- - - - - - - - -

The travels of Josh Mance:

Those familiar with the mission of The National Scholastic Sports Foundation are aware of its financial contribution to the travel of junior age athletes over the years through our Select Meet Program. Since 1990, that number is approaching $1,250,000.

One of the recipients of a Select Meet Grant for the Junior Nationals is the US high school leader in the 400 meters, Josh Mance.

Josh entered the USATF Junior Championships just ahead of the entry deadline. Entering is one thing. Getting from Chino, CA to Des Moines as another.

The air ticket was purchased on Tuesday, one day before he was to travel. You can imagine the fare. Thanks to a donation to our Select Meet Grant Program by a very generous individual who will go unnamed we were able to help Josh and over two dozen other athletes. It is a name very familiar to those who follow high school track.

Josh got his ticket and was on his way. It was a "three-stopper", connecting finally in Chicago. But the weather in Chicago turned miserable. So miserable that most flights were canceled. (Since the cancellation was weather-related, the hotel would not be paid for either — not a good situation for an 18 year old 2000 miles away from home).

So Josh was stuck in Chicago. And the airline couldn't get him out until Friday. He runs Friday! What to do?

Joy Kamani got on the phone with Josh's mother and Josh. Josh, "cool as a cucumber" listened to the plan. Since air wouldn't work, the alternative was bus or train.

I search both Amtrak and Greyhound for schedules and fares. Amtrak does not go to Des Moines. The nearest stop is Osceola, 50 miles away.

But Greyhound had a 9:30pm departure (it was now 5:30pm). So I purchased the ticket online. Wow, only $47.50! But if the purchaser is not the traveler, there's an $18 gift charge. Whatever. I paid it.

So we got him on the bus after a taxi ride from Chicago O'Hare airport to the bus station in downtown Chicago. It was now about 7:00pm. He confirmed that he picked up the ticket.

At dinner, at about 9:40pm, Joy got a text message from Josh, "I'm on the bus". So off he went.

Six stops later, he arrived in Des Moines. Joy got awoken at 5:15am with a call from Josh. "I'm here!". Joy instructed him to take a taxi to his hotel, located near the airport. We suspect he's a bit tired. And we expect he'll wander into the stadium some time later today. What a kid!


Our Partners